In a cozy and compact corner of the Tara Book building in Tiruvanmiyur, chairs, mats, and large cushions seated a diverse adult audience who were present for Sarah Odedina’s informative talk on children’s publishing.
Odedina is primarily known as the publishing force behind the Harry Potter series while working at Bloomsbury. Responsible for the global literary phenomenon, she oversaw its entire publication and later started Hot Key Books, an imprint of the Swedish-based Bonnier Publishing. “We sell authors,” she declared emphatically. “We are in the business of building people.”
Odedina’s talk included surprising facts about the current UK consumer market and also the latest trends in marketing in children’s publishing.
“The market is extremely trend-driven,” Odedina said. She pointed out that the market had been “flat” in the last few years, with the same number of books being sold every year. A single author usually ruled the market, for example, Suzanne Collins with her Hunger Games trilogy in 2012.
Showing the comparative performances of publishing powerhouses in the UK, Odedina also talked about the power of social media, acknowledging it as the biggest change she had witnessed in her 25 years in publishing.
“Social media is playground marketing on a global scale,” she commented, adding that it enabled a transition from interacting with retailers to interacting with readers.
She also provided interesting examples of how Hot Key Books was using innovative and fun marketing techniques to establish a better relationship with its audience, such as inviting schools to participate in an author’s online writing project and distributing mailbox pamphlets about book deals in the form of pizza advertisements.
Odedina has great hopes for the current and future scenes in children’s publishing. Welcoming the trend of e-books as a new way of reading, she seemed to embrace its growing prevalence, noting that similar doubts had been cast on the introduction of paperbacks.
Insisting on original voices and looking beyond Harry Potter, Odedina talked about the different and increased number of genres now available to children and young adults.